James Traub reminds the Atlantic Community not to freak out over Turkey’s “Neo-Ottoman foreign policy.”
It’s a caricature to say that Turkey has chosen the Middle East, or Islam, over the West. Turkey’s aspiration for full membership in the club of the West, including the European Union, is still a driving force. But Turkey aspires to many things, and some may contradict each other. The country wants to be a regional power in a region deeply suspicious of the West, of Israel, and of the United States; a Sunni power acting as a broker for Sunnis in Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere; a charter member of the new nexus of emerging powers around the world; and a dependable ally of the West. When Turkey is forced to choose among these roles, the neighborhood tends to win out, and that’s when you get votes against sanctions on Iran. At this week’s NATO summit in Brussels, for instance, Davutoglu has expressed skepticism about missile defense, because any such system would be aimed at countries like Iran and Syria, which Turkey declines to characterize as threats.
True enough, but I still believe that the Europeans will come to the rue their decision to de facto reject Anakara’s bid for European Union membership. The ascession process, and eventual membership, would have done much to consolidate Turkish democracy while bringing a vibrant, emerging power into the EU. In light of ongoing developments in the Balkans, I have particular difficulty understanding why Turkey is a worse candidate than certain states already represented in Brussels.